Flagstaff judge throws out Sen. Rogers' restraining order against Arizona Capitol Times reporter

By Michel Marizco
Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 - 9:30pm
Updated: Thursday, May 11, 2023 - 1:23pm

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Sen. Wendy Rogers
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Sen. Wendy Rogers' attorneys walked away without answering questions after the judge tossed her injunction on May 10, 2023, in Flagstaff.

A Flagstaff judge has dismissed a restraining order that state Sen. Wendy Rogers obtained against Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez. The judge decreed investigative journalism a legitimate purpose.

Rogers started off by describing a scenario where Sanchez approached her after a Senate hearing to ask a question. 

"I did not feel comfortable in terms of she was imposing herself upon me and in my work area, and so I said I did not want to be questioned by her again," she said.

Sanchez herself took the stand and pointed out she is the only reporter in the state who is tasked specifically with reporting on Arizona’s state Senate. In other words, asking the state senator questions is a significant part of her job. 

Hear Arizona Republic reporter Ray Stern discuss the case with host Lauren Gilger on The Show

Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez outside the Coconino County court where the injunction filed against her was tossed May 10, 2023.

More recently, Sanchez was investigating Rogers’ reimbursements as an elected public servant. Rogers collected more than $19,000 in per diem charges in less than a year, according to Sanchez’s reporting. And she claimed residency in Flagstaff which would help cement her claim to serving Legislative District 7, which includes the city. Sanchez learned through publicly available records that Rogers owned homes in Chandler and Tempe. So she visited the senator’s various homes.

Sanchez was asked about the search by the newspaper’s lawyer Christopher Hennessy.

"What were you expecting to find when you went to this Tempe address?" he asked her.

"I didn’t know what I was expecting to find. I didn’t know which one she was living in at the moment. But I wanted to go and I wanted to ask the neighbors and whoever about this issue and check it out," Sanchez testified.

Then Rogers got a Flagstaff justice of the peace to sign off on a restraining order demanding Sanchez not approach the senator. 

In the end, Judge Howard Grodman dismissed the restraining order. 

"I don’t think there’s a series of events directed at Sen. Rogers that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed. Even if she in fact was," Grodman said. 

Then he added "investigative reporting is a legitimate purpose."

Rogers has had a troubled history as an elected official. She was censured last year for threatening violence against people opposed to her views. On Wednesday, she entered the courthouse flanked by a team of lawyers. Her lawyers emerged from the courthouse alone without her and walked away, ignoring reporters' questions.

Wendy Rogers
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Wendy Rogers at the Arizona Capitol in 2022.

Then Sanchez and her attorney Hennessy emerged. Hennessy read a statement: "On behalf of the Arizona Capitol Times and its parent company, Bridgetower Media, we are pleased with the judge’s ruling. We stand firmly behind Ms Sanchez and all our reporters in the exercise of their rights under the First Amendment and we are pleased that the judge recognized the injunction was improper."

When asked if she is going to continue her investigation into Rogers’ residences, Sanchez says she has more reporting to reveal.

"I can’t say yet how we’re going to handle it. I wasn’t done when the injunction happened. We have more information," she said. "But I can’t tell you everything yet."

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